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Will disputes on the rise – is your Will open to challenge?

It is frequently being reported in the press that the number of challenges being made to Wills is rising, with claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 increasing by as much as 72% in 2021.  It is thought that people are becoming more inclined to dispute a Will than they may previously have been, due to the increasing pressures created by the continuing rise to the cost of living.

One such reported case, where a claim was made, involved a lady who died and by her Will left her estate equally between her daughter and grandson.  She chose not to make provision for her other daughter (‘daughter B’) who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.  The husband of daughter B made a claim against the estate on her behalf.  After almost three years of legal proceedings and a three day trial, the claim was, eventually, unsuccessful.

This case highlights the importance of instructing a qualified professional to prepare your Will, as they have the necessary expertise to ask the relevant questions to pick up on any issues that may give rise to a dispute later down the line.  They will also contemporaneously document the discussions that were had about any potentially contentious issues and the reasons behind the decisions made.  Not only will they make their own file note, which could act as evidence in any future proceedings but would usually recommend that the testator makes a letter of wishes to accompany their Will, to explain, in their own words, the reasons behind any decisions that could leave family members feeling disgruntled.  It is much better to have a written note of the testator’s decisions made by them at the time of making the Will, than for a family member to have to rely on the argument that “I know it’s what they would have wanted” or “they told me it’s what they wanted”.

Where possible, in circumstances where the testator is excluding someone from their Will, which could leave that person feeling aggrieved, we encourage them to have a conversation with them during their lifetime, to explain what they are doing and why.  Whilst it may not be possible to do this in all cases, it is less likely to give the person excluded from the Will a shock when the testator dies (i.e at a sensitive time) and consequently may make it less likely that they make a claim.

Whilst you cannot prevent someone from making a claim against an estate, with the right advice, you can make a claim less likely. If this article has given you food for thought in relation to your Will, or changes that you may wish to make to it, please get in touch with your usual Wealth Preservation team member, who will be happy to advise you.

This update is for general purposes and guidance only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should seek legal advice before relying on its content. This update relates to the prevailing circumstances at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments. If you have general queries about our updates, please email: mailinglists@greenwoods.co.uk




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      By completing and submitting this form, you consent to Greenwoods Legal LLP processing your personal data to provide you with the email update services you have selected and any other materials and information about our services that Greenwoods Legal LLP reasonably believes will be of interest to you. You are free to withdraw your consent at any time by emailing mailinglists@greenwoods.co.uk